Michael Moore, the attorney general of Mississippi, filed the first such lawsuit. In August 1994, Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III filed a similar suit. Since then 38 more states and many city and county governments have joined Mississippi and Minnesota in filing suits against tobacco manufacturers. In March 1997, the Liggett Group, Inc., reached a settlement with the attorneys general of five states and, a few days later, with the plaintiffs in one of the class-action suits. This agreement acknowledged that nicotine is addictive and that marketing has been directed at youths. Liggett also agreed to make public previously secret industry documents.
On June 20, 1997, the attorneys general of 40 states announced an agreement (hereafter "the settlement") with five additional tobacco firms, which among them account for more than 95 percent of tobacco sales in the United States. The settlement would entail payments of up to $368.5 billion over 25 years. The settlement proposed FDA regulation, marketing and promotion restrictions, some antitrust exemptions for tobacco firms, and liability limits with escrow funds for class-action, individual, and state suits. On July 3, 1997, Mississippi reached its own settlement of more than $3 billion, but this will be superseded by the congressionally ratified settlement if it comes to fruition. On August 25, 1997, Florida reached an $11.3 billion settlement that would likewise be superseded by federal legislation, except that a $150 million pilot tobacco control pilot program will continue with or without federal settlement. A three-phase Texas Medicaid suit was scheduled to begin in October 1997, but this was delayed until January 1998 due to the judge's illness. The suit brought by Minnesota is scheduled to go to trial in January 1998.
In addition to the actions of the state attorneys general and FDA, dozens of individual and class-action lawsuits have been filed against tobacco firms. Suits have also been filed in several countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. On October 9, 1997, a class-action suit brought by flight attendants was settled out of court, creating a $300 million fund. Those funds "shall be used solely to establish a Foundation [the Norma Broin Foundation, named for the flight attendant who initiated the suit] whose purpose will be to sponsor scientific research with respect to the early detection and cure of diseases associated with cigarette smoking."
The various lawsuits have forced to the surface documents related to the tobacco industry. In December 1997, the House Committee on Commerce issued subpoenas for over 800 documents identified in connection with the Minnesota state suit, and made them publicly available. In addition to the courtroom drama, industry whistle blowers have publicly disclosed previously secret documents and practices, and the 1996 U.S. presidential campaign featured a lively debate about tobacco control.
Despite a mounting debate, consensus about the details of national tobacco control policy is not complete. Public health advocates differ sharply about whether a national settlement is desirable at all, let alone about the terms of such a settlement. With expressions of support for legislation from both the president and the leaders in the U.S. Congress, however, the debate has shifted from theory into the political arena. The findings and recommendations of this report are directly pertinent to the policy decisions now under active consideration, including but by no means restricted to legislation related to the settlement.
Several bills have been introduced in late 1997, and several other bills are being actively drafted with the expectation they will be introduced early in 1998.9 Federal